The debut show from Dawn Train Theatre Company, Breast Baring explores identity, relationships and the life of queer 1700s pirate, Anne Bonny. Co-founded by Jacob Newton and Anna Francis, Dawn Train succeeds in centring female and queer narratives, showcasing collaboration between artists of multiple disciplines. 

Set in a cafe, the reserved Annabel (Francis) is a wallflower crushing on co worker Mary (Alice Wolff-Whitehouse) and experiencing unwanted sexual advances from Cliff (Nathan Whitebrook). When Mary shares the book she’s writing about notable women in history – Annabel discovers the unapologetic, powerful, piratical Anne Bonny, everything Annabel could be.

Newton’s writing draws parallels between the historical lovers Anne Bonny and Mary Read and the modern day Annabel and Mary. The audience is educated about these powerful women through the relatable eyes of baristas complaining about customers and finding time to flirt with each other. 

The chemistry between Francis and Wolff-Whitehouse is beautifully built, especially in emotional moments. Wolff-Whitehouse creates so much depth in the seemingly confident, carefree character of Mary, showing how much she craves connection with Annabel (Francis). At times the comedic timing of their exchanges feels a little forced, but their relationship was clearly enjoyed by the audience, and I was invested in what would happen next.

Whitebrook plays the stereotypical, problematic and dominant male (Cliff) very well. Amongst the comedic elements of the show, the insidious nature of sexual assault and harassment is not minimised. When Annabel (Francis) begins to try on the characteristics of Anne Bonny, we see her relationship with Cliff transform as she calls him out on his behaviour. His defensive responses are all too familiar. The costume changes (designed by Romi Lindenberg) effectively demonstrate how seriously Annabel is taking her idolisation of Anne Bonny. 

The physical theatre throughout the show is a credit to the cast and directors Lucinda Freeburn and Annabel Lisk. From coffee cup tossing to scenes of swashbuckling fights, every choice is engaging and effective. It is great comic relief to see band members Loris Scarpa and Sam Lightfoot-Loftus play archetypal customers at the cafe, interrupting the flow of the storyline as everyday life is wont to do.  The band and club singer Susannah Cann brings levity and atmosphere to the show in a way that is unexpected and entertaining.

Breast Baring is a thought-provoking show about idols, women lost to history and the need to reinvent oneself. This “binary-traversing” theatre company created a moving piece of theatre that feels distinctly queer and showcases so much talent!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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